Learn Hebrew Online topic: Tu BiShvat (ט"ו בִּשְׁבָט)

(by Shira Choen-Regev - Hebrew online teacher)


On Tu BiShvat (ט"ו בִּשְׁבָט) we celebrate the New Year of the trees and the fruits, by planting trees or eating dried fruits from the Land of Israel. It is also a good time to think about the special relationship between us, human beings, and the trees or nature in general.

In the book of Deuteronomy (20:19) it is written that a man is the tree of the field:
"כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה" (דְּבָרִים כ, יט)
There truly is much resemblance between the life of a tree and the life of a person, beginning as a fertilized seed and needing much care and support in their first days. As they grow, they develop roots and produce their own fruits/babies. Eventually, man, just like the tree dies.
The Hebrew language expresses the similarity between man and the tree by using the same terminology for both human beings and trees: צְמִיחָה (tsmixa, growth), הִתְפַּתְּחוּת (hitpatxut, development), פְּרִיחָה (prixa, bloom), קְמִילָה (kmila, withering).
Remembering how similar we are, how dependent we are on each other, and how precious our relationship is, gives this special holiday a deeper meaning.
You may also celebrate Tu BiShvat in the modern Israeli tradition by planting a tree in Israel by clicking here.

Happy Tu Bi'Shvat!
ט"ו בִּשְׁבָט שָׂמֵחַ!
by Shira Choen-Regev
The HebrewOnline Team

Tu biShvat Words:

Transcription: ets
Part of speech: Noun, Masculine
Literal Meaning: tree

Transcription: shoresh
Part of speech: Noun, Masculine
Literal Meaning: root, source

Transcription: geza
Part of speech: Noun, masculine
Literal Meaning: trunk, stem, stump

Transcription: anaf
Part of speech: Noun, masculine
Literal Meaning: branch

A Talmudic Story

An old man planted a tree. A young man passing by asked him: "What are you planting?" The old man answered that he was planting a carob (חָרוּב, xaruv) tree.
"Don't you know that it takes 70 years for a carob tree to produce fruit? You won't live to enjoy it!"
The old man said: "Others planted for me and I plant for the generations to come."

Man and Tree in the Bible

The bible uses the traits of trees to describe human beings; for example, a righteous person (צַדִּיק, tsadik) is as strong as a tree planted on a source of water:

"וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל פַּלְגֵי מַיִם אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹ וְעָלֵהוּ לֹא יִבּוֹל וְכָל אֹשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה יַצְלִיחַ" (תְּהִלִּים א, ג).

And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water,
that bringeth forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf doth not wither; and in whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper. (Psalms 1:3)

The righteous person is also compared to the stable palm and cedar trees:
"צַדִּיק כְּתָמָר יִפְרַח כְּאֶרֶז בַּלְבָנוֹן יִשְׁגֶּה" (תְּהִלִּים צב, יג).
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. (Psalms 92:13)

Tu biShvat Song

שִׁירַת הָעֲשָׂבִים Song of the Weeds
מִלִּים: נָעֳמִי שֶׁמֶר בְּהַשְׁרָאַת ר' נַחְמָן מִבְּרֶסְלָב
לַחַן: נָעֳמִי שֶׁמֶר

Reb Nachman of Bratslav saw nature as a source of spiritual inspiration. When walking through the countryside he once told his companion that the weeds sing and praise G-d and their singing is so beautiful and honest that it feels very good to worship G-d among them. He later elaborated on the fact that each weed and every creation on earth has its special "melody" and we should all be sensitive to the melodies of others.
In 1976 Neomi Shemer wrote and composed the following song inspired by Reb Nachman's words.

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